Clipse's No Malice on Justin Timberlake: 'He's Definitely An Official Brother'

"Like I Love You" collaborator shares fond memories of working with JT.

In the fall of 2002, Justin Timberlake was fresh off of *N SYNC's latest smash album and ready to make his solo debut with a sexy, stripped-down R&B track called "Like I Love You," featuring a pair of up-and-coming Virginia rappers known as Clipse. No Malice (previously known as Malice), the elder half of the brother-and-brother duo along with Pusha T, tells Billboard that he still has fond memories of collaborating with the then-21-year-old Timberlake.

"[It was] one of my most memorable events in the music game," says No Malice of recording the hit single. "Justin is exceptionally cool in being very, very down to earth, and that’s one of the things that I remember about him." On JT's exceedingly good-natured public persona, No Malice assures, "It’s not an act. He’s definitely an official brother."

Clipse, who had released their hits-packed debut album "Lord Willin'" two months before "Like I Love You" hit radio, had been consistent collaborators of the hit-making production duo the Neptunes, fellow Virginians who produced and co-wrote "Like I Love You." No Malice says that the rap duo's relationship with Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo helped make "Like I Love You" happen.

"I was home, I got a call from Pharrell… he wanted to put us on this Justin record," remembers No Malice. "Next thing I know we’re in L.A., we’re shooting a video for it, and then we’re performing at the VMA’s…and went out partying with Justin and his parents!"

The single was a successful start to Timberlake's solo career, peaking at No. 11 on the Hot 100. That same year, a pair of Clipse singles, "Grindin'" and "When the Last Time," cracked the top 40 of the Hot 100.

"Like I Love You" wasn't the only time the coke-rap duo of Clipse was associated with a turn-of-the-millennium boy band. "We did a song with the Backstreet Boys called 'The Call.' It was a remix, so whatever," says No Malice, who thinks Timberlake took the bigger risk in the seemingly unlikely collaboration. "I think Justin really took a chance with us in allowing us to get on his record -- [we were] these new dudes, gritty and grimy, coming out, you know? He wasn’t scared to take that risk and it worked out. I’m really glad about that."

No Malice is planning a debut solo album titled "Hear Ye Him" via Re-Up Gang Records, due this summer. Timberlake's third solo album, "The 20/20 Experience," is due March 19 on RCA.